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For release at noon, EST,
Monday, April 13, 1953.


Remarks of Wm. McC. Martin, J r . , Chairman,
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,
at luncheon meeting of The Economic Club of Detroit,
Sheraton-Cadillac Hotel,
Detroit, Michigan,
April 13, 1953.


On behalf of the Federal Reserve System, I wish to express
appreciation of the honor you do me in inviting me to be your guest
at this luncheon of The Economic Club of Detroit which you are giving in connection with the dedication of the new Detroit Branch
It seemed to me that this might be an appropriate time and
occasion to comment on the part that the Federal Reserve System
was designed to play in the economic life of our country.

In par-

ticular, I would like to say something about the progress that has
been made in the past two years in what, for want of better words,
I have referred to as the transition to free markets.
It is not strictly true, of course, that in our complex world
we can have absolute freedom in human affairs.

The goal of the

greatest good for the greatest number requires as a minimum a
Government of laws, and, human nature being what it is, that means
some regulation of our daily lives.
monetary management.

There is this minimum in

Nevertheless, the aspiration remains to

have as much freedom of choice and action as is compatible with
the common good. This is true in economic as in other affairs.


Under the hard choices left us in wartime, we had to dictate
even some of the smallest details of our economic life, but that
strait jacketing of the economy is wholly inconsistent with democratic institutions and a private enterprise system. It produced
the paradox that we seemed to be practicing the very thing we were
fighting against. The Federal Reserve System was caught in this
paradox under the wartime decisions. It undertook to stabilize the
price of Government securities in relation to a fixed pattern of
yields, and in so doing found itself feeding the forces that make for
inflation. It continued to stabilize these prices, with minor modifications, after the war, in fact up to March 1951. These are facts.
I am not passing judgment on what was done.
Last month marked the second anniversary of the so-called
Treasury-Federal Reserve accord. It may be worth while to recall
the wording of the joint statement:
"The Treasury and the Federal Reserve System",
said the announcement, "have reached full accord with
respect to debt management and monetary policies to
be pursued in furthering their common purpose to
assure the successful financing of the Government's
requirements and, at the same time, to minimize
monetization of the public debt."
In monetary history the accord was a landmark.

In withdrawing from

supporting fixed prices in the Government bond market, the Federal


Reserve System regained its influence over the volume of money,


ceased to be the residual buyer who, by its purchases of Government
securities, however reluctantly made, furnished bank reserves
indiscriminately and thus abetted inflationary overexpansion of the
money supply.
During its 40 years of existence, the Federal Reserve System
has frequently tried to formulate or define its purposes in the light
of the responsibility for monetary management which Congress
placed upon it.

The System is, and always must be, subject to the

will of the Congress,

Through their elected representatives it is

thus ultimately answerable to the American people.
The Federal Reserve Act contains guidance for policy and
action rather than directives or a mandate.

While the Reserve System

does not have an explicit mandate in the law, it is governed

in its

decisions by a definite purpose which can be simply stated.


purpose is to see that, so far as its policies are a controlling
factor, the supply of money is neither so large as to induce
destructive inflationary forces nor so small as to stifle our great
and growing economy.
It is fair to say, I think, that the System has performed that
task fairly satisfactorily during the past two years.

During that

period the economy has functioned at record levels and despite the


diversion of economic resources to the defense program, it has
functioned without further inflation.

However precarious the balance,

it has been a period of steady economic progress.

It would be a

mistake to claim too much for monetary policy in this achievement.
But it would be equally misleading to conclude that this steady
progress would have been achieved without the aid of the monetary
policies and actions that were initiated two years ago.
What has occurred in the past two years in the area of money
management has been a return from wartime necessities to the principles of the free market.

The significance of this transition is not

to be found in interest rates, but in its far greater implications,
wholly apart from its economic effects.

In a free market, rates can

go down as well as up and thus perform their proper function in the
price mechanism.
across the board.

Dictated money rates breed dictated prices all
This is characteristic of dictatorships.

It is

It is not compatible with our institutions.

Not only in this country but in the entire Western World, we
are seeing a return to the principles upon which our strength rests.
Under our Governmental institutions and our economic system, the
maximum benefits for all of us flow from utilizing private property,
free, competitive enterprise, and the profit motive in accordance


with the dictates of the marketplace—


that was almost

forgotten for a period of years.
The marketplace—




basic essentials

of the American economy and of the economy of the Western World.
We have seen the countries of Europe that struggled along with
Marshall Plan aid return to the earning process, one by one.


have seen monetary policy put to work in Belgium and Italy. We have
seen it spread from Italy up to the Netherlands, on to Denmark, and
on to Britain.

For the last year Britain has been taking measures

running somewhat parallel to ours.
The process of returning to acceptance and use of the market
place is slow, painful, and hard.

It is not achieved because people

necessarily like it; it is achieved because alternative ways don't
work —


that has been found out in most of Western Europe since

the war.
When we started this program of freeing the market some
people were talking as if that would lead to panic and disaster. Some
said that once Government bonds went below par the credit of the
United States would be destroyed.

Some people saw panic and

collapse on the horizon merely because there had been a movement
of a few thirty-seconds in the Government securities market.
"stability" had come to mean "stagnation" and "frozen prices".

The word

-6During the past year, under the authority of the Federal Open
Market Committee, an ad hoc subcommittee has been reviewing our
operations in the Government securities market with a view to
determining what might be done to develop and improve those operations under the changed conditions.
After ten years of a pegged market, we found that once the
market was freed a little bit, many of the devices and techniques we
had been using tended to work in reverse.
the brokers, theindiv duals—


market —



We found that the dealers,

composite that makes up the

making market judgments for themselves were

chiefly interested in trying to find out what the Federal Reserve
planned to do and how it was going to operate.
Federal Reserve support of the Government securities market
over many years, because it affected the operation of the entire
financial market, had developed patterns of behavior and thinking
that were not easily or quickly changed.

Only gradually were old

practices discarded and the characteristics of a free market developed.
That is not to say that the performance of the Government
securities market after the unpegging was not highly gratifying in
several important respects.

Considering the pressure on the

economy and on the supply of savings, the range of price fluctuation


on Government issues was moderate.

The facilities of the market

proved to be generally good.
But the market did not have the depth, breadth, and resiliencyneeded for the execution of effective and responsive market operations
and for flexible debt management purposes.

This means a securities

market in which market forces of supply and demand and of savings
and investment are permitted to express themselves in market prices
and yields.

The unsatisfactory aspects of the market seemed to be

related in large part to the psychology that pervaded the market.
Professional operators in the market appeared confused with
respect to the elements they should consider in evaluating future
market trends.
For one thing, they seemed apprehensive as to the Federal
Reserve attitude on prices in the market.

The market appeared

constantly to expect action by the System which, by standards of a
free market, would be unpredictable and might seem capricious.
Investors and dealers seemed to lack adequate background for
weighing and evaluating System actions in forming their individual
market judgments and investment decisions.

After the unpegging

there quite naturally remained much skepticism as to the System's
intentions or ability to permit a free private market to develop.


In important respects there was tangible justification for
these doubts.

For one thing, the System continued to support the

market for short-term securities during periods of Treasury

For another thing, it was also understood that the

System had a policy of maintaining an orderly market in all
sectors of the Government securities market, a phrase that
was variously interpreted in the market and which the market
therefore found hard to understand.
Against that background, it was our purpose to develop
methods of operation which, as they became known through practice,
would give those who participate in the market, and those who have
contacts in the market, a familiarity with how the Federal Reserve
may intervene, when it may intervene, for what purpose it may
Since the unpegging, we have endeavored to confine open
market transactions to the effectuation of credit policy, that is,
to maintain a volume of member bank reserves consistent with
the needs of a growing and stable economy,

We have tried to con-

fine our operations to short-term securities, in practice largely
Treasury bills.

Prices of these issues, which are the closest

substitutes for cash, are least affected by Reserve System sales


or purchases.

Gradually investors in Government securities have, I

believe, come to expect and understand this phase of System activity
in the market.
We have had a particularly acute problem during periods of
Treasury refundings.

It had become the practice under pegged and

supported markets for the System to intervene to support Treasury

This seemed a reasonable use of Federal Reserve

resources, provided it was limited and excessive purchases were
later disposed of in the market.

This practice was followed for

eighteen months after the accord.
We found, however, that when the Federal Reserve, with
its huge portfolio and its virtually unlimited resources, intervened
in the market during Treasury refundings, many other investors
tended to step to the sidelines and to let the market form around
the System's bids.

This was a natural and highly rational investor

But the result was that with the System supporting a

refunding, offerings failed to get fair market valuation until some
time after the refunding period.

Under the circumstances, it was

very difficult for the market to make a satisfactory judgment of the
worth of a new offering or of the relationship it should bear to
other Government obligations already outstanding.

This was


particularly true since it was usually obvious to investors that the
System might act to absorb reserves by sales during or after the
refunding operation in order to offset its support purchases.
During the past two transition years, the Treasury and the
Federal Reserve have been experimenting with various ways of
minimizing or eliminating this intervention.

In connection with a

small refunding, the Federal Reserve decided last December to
refrain entirely from purchasing maturing securities, or "rights"
as they are called.

Again in February, when the Treasury refinanced

a large maturity with an attractive offer no support was given by the

Both refundings were highly successful and demonstrated

the value of reliance on freely functioning markets rather than on
official intervention.
The transition has major advantages to the System, to the
Treasury, and to investors in general.

The System no longer needs

to inject periodically into credit markets large amounts of reserve
funds which are difficult to withdraw before they have resulted in
undesirable credit developments.

On the other hand, private

investors, whose funds the Government seeks to attract, may now
fairly appraise a new Government security offering through market

They may invest in the new issue with confidence that

-11its market price reflects not just an arbitrary decision by the Treasury
and the Federal Open Market Committee but instead the composite
evaluation of its worth by thousands of investors in the light of their
judgments as to the current and prospective demand and supply of
We also had to deal with the concept of "maintaining an
orderly market".

I tried before committees of the Congress

to define "orderly market". I was not very successful, but I do
think that gradually our emphasis has been shifting toward a realization that we should not be the judges of what an orderly market is;
that our efforts should be directed more toward correcting
disorderly conditions — you can see the difference in emphasis —

vening unduly.
In a properly functioning market, and particularly in a well
organized money and credit market, fluctuations resulting from
temporary or technical developments are self-correcting without
any official intervention. Of the movements that are not selfcorrecting, most reflect basic changes in the credit outlook which
should be permitted to occur. Only very rarely is there likely to
be a disorderly situation that would require Federal Reserve intervention for reasons other than credit policy.


As investors continue to operate in a free market for Government securities I am confident that they will develop a fuller
understanding of the minimum role to be played by the System in
such a market.

They will then feel freer to express their own

judgments about market values and will thus develop a market with
greater depth, breadth, and resiliency.

Certainly much progress

has already been made.
With the changes in its own policies and practices and with
the development over the past two years of this self-reliant market
for Government securities, the Federal Reserve has been able to
bring into full use its instruments for influencing the general credit
situation in order to promote economic and financial stability.
Open market operations and the discount rate are again being used
for this purpose as twin reserve banking measures, each complementing the other in affecting the availability, volume, and cost of
Primary reliance is once more placed upon the discount
mechanism as a means for supplying the variable short-term needs
of individual banks for reserves.

Experience has demonstrated

that when member banks are heavily in debt to the Federal Reserve
Banks, the tone of the money market is tight.

Marginal loans are


more likely to be deferred and some credit risks may have to shop
around for accommodation.

Conversely, when member bank borrow-

ing is low, the tone of the money market tends to be easy and credit
accommodation is less discriminating.

The Federal Reserve borrow-

ing privilege and the discount rate, after years of disuse, have come
to play once more their intended role as flexible, impersonal
instruments of monetary management.
Open market operations can be employed when needed to
condition the current tone in credit markets and the general
availability of credit.

By these operations the Federal Reserve can

tighten or ease the pressure on member bank reserve positions and
thus cause banks to borrow or enable them to reduce borrowings at
the Reserve Banks.

Subsequently, this tightness or ease is trans-

mitted and magnified in money and credit markets.
I have sought to outline for you the progress that the Federal
Reserve System, within the framework of its purposes and functions,
has made in these past two years of transition.

With credit and

monetary measures in effective operation, and with a Federal
fiscal situation that does not depend excessively on credit to
finance expenditures, reasonable stability in the value of the
dollar is again a valid assumption in making economic decisions.


This is in sharp contrast to the era of pegged markets from
which we have emerged.

There are still some who would have us

return to a pegged market.

If we did, we would have no reliable

safeguard against the erosion of our savings, our pensions, our
life insurancepolicies—


private enterprise rest.

capital upon which the institutions of
There are no reliable substitutes for

free markets which have been reinstated during the past two years.
A redundant money supply can be dammed up by direct controls
for a time, but as we saw in the early postwar years, once the
controls are lifted, as the public insists that they be in peacetime,
the economy is engulfed with the flood of money that has already
been created and only temporarily held back.
If we handle our fiscal, monetary, and debt management
problems wisely we will not have to worry very much about the
value of the dollar.